ISLAMABAD: Some parliamentarians on Friday accused power utilities of indulging in wrongdoing in the management of loadshedding.
As the National Assembly’s standing committee on water and power deliberated on the payment of bribe to officials of power companies to reduce or increase the duration of loadshedding, Water and Power Secretary Zafar Mahmood reiterated the government’s decision to exempt all domestic consumers from loadshedding during Sahr and Iftar.
A number of parliamentarians belonging to the PPP, MQM and PML-N complained that officials of distribution companies were taking bribes in the form of collections made by consumers to exempt one particular area from loadshedding at the cost of others.
The worst criticism came from Advocate Ijaz Virk, a PPP MNA from Faisalabad, who said the mismanagement of power crisis had made it difficult for parliamentarians of his party to approach the people in their areas. He said people had started attacking residences of PPP parliamentarians and even their families and children were not safe.
He said the standing committee should take action against the former and current managers of power companies responsible for the mismanagement. He alleged that some senior officials of the power companies were increasing and reducing the timings of loadshedding on the basis of their family connections.
The water and power secretary agreed that when so many parliamentarians were reporting similar complaints about widespread nepotism and corruption in distribution of power supply at the local level, these could not be wrong and promised to put in place a computerised system that could accurately disclose loadshedding timings and schedules.
He said the biggest challenge for the power ministry was to ensure fair and impartial distribution of electricity shortfall when it was not possible immediately to overcome the crisis entirely.
As some parliamentarians wanted an equal distribution of shortfall among rural and urban areas, including Islamabad, the secretary said the existing system of giving preference to large cities and district headquarters had been in place for years and could not be changed unless a policy decision by the government.
The committee praised the new team of the ministry of water and power for bringing down electricity shortfall. When asked about a possible time when the power crisis could be completely eliminated, the secretary said the shortfall could be overcome in two years.
Secretary Mahmood informed the meeting presided over by Ghulam Mustafa Shah that the government had decided not to carry out loadshedding for two hours for Sahr and three hours for Iftar in metropolitan cities and district headquarters.
All towns and rural areas will be exempt from loadshedding for one hour in Sahr and two hours in Iftar.
A request made by members of the committee to exempt all five prayers from loadshedding, however, was not entertained by the water and power ministry on the grounds that some industries required continuous power supply.
The secretary said members of the federal cabinet also desired for avoiding loadshedding during five prayers, but it was technically difficult.
He said the loadshedding schedule had been worked out in consultation with industrialists because it required suspension of power supply to industrial consumers during Sahr and Iftar to ensure electricity to mosques and residential consumers.